During the 1990’s and 2000’s, the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association of North Carolina consistently has worked for 25-year retirement and increases in the retirement multiplier. Due to the high profile of the retirement program, many PFFPNC accomplishments have either been forgotten or gone unnoticed. The following is an overview of some of our Legislative victories.
ONE-YEAR DISABILITY PAYMENTS – PFFPNC Lobbyists worked with other fire organizations to establish disability payments under the Local Government Employees Retirement System for fire fighters who have one or more creditable years of service and become incapacitated for duty as the natural and proximate result of an accident occurring while in the actual performance of duty. Prior to 1991, it was five or more years.
POLITICAL FREEDOM – In 1991, PFFPNC Lobbyists helped design language and asked that the bill be introduced to exempt public employees from local Mini Hatch Acts. Most cities in the state had adopted these acts to prevent their employees from becoming politically active. Unfortunately, the League of Municipalities was able to weaken the 1991 bill with a last minute amendment. In 1993, the PFFPNC asked that the 1991 law be amended and lobbied to pass HB 818 to ensure that public employees were no longer restricted from political activity while off duty. Prior to 1993, most fire fighters and paramedics could NOT influence politics in their city or county and some were even restricted from participating in state and federal elections.
HAZARDOUS MATERIALS EMERGENCY RESPONSE – The PFFPNC lobbied with a coalition of fire organizations for state funding to establish Regional Response Teams for Hazardous Materials in North Carolina. The Regional Response Teams for Hazardous Materials and RRT Tractor and Trailer Vans loaded with equipment across the state are products of the PFFPNC participating in this collective effort.
NC FIRE AND RESCUE COMMISSION SEAT – In 1995, PFFPNC Lobbyists designed language and asked that a bill be introduced to establish a seat for IAFF members on the NC State Fire and Rescue Commission. Prior to 1995, only fire chiefs and volunteers were allowed to have positions on this Commission. Today, professional fire fighters have a voice in training certifications and other issues determined by this Commission.
WORKER’S COMPENSATION – Over the past 22 years, PFFPNC Lobbyists have worked with the North Carolina AFL-CIO and a coalition of other organizations to defeat efforts to strip North Carolina workers of most of the protection under state worker’s comp laws. Fire fighters have a higher rate of on-the-job injuries than any other workers and therefore have more to lose. Currently, professional fire fighters and paramedics work under better worker comp laws than many other states in our nation.
COLLEGE TUITION WAIVER – PFFPNC Lobbyists worked to introduce legislation and successfully established free tuition at all state supported institutions of higher learning for the spouses and children of fire fighters, paramedics and law enforcement killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Fire fighters, paramedics or law enforcement officers, who are permanently disabled in the line of duty, are also included under the free tuition program.
DISCIPLINARY DISCLOSURE – In 1998, PFFPNC Lobbyists were successful in defeating an attempt by the North Carolina Press Association to have public employee’s personnel records opened to the public when it was determined that disciplinary action had taken place. Had the bill been successful, the news media would have been able to broadcast or publish all the details of disciplinary action by employers. Conditions of news releases did not have to be based on confirmation that the employee was proven guilty. The Disciplinary Disclosure Act passed the Senate in 1997 and was stopped in the House by PFFPNC Lobbyist during the short session in 1998.
FIREFIGHTER/NO CONFLICT – In 1997, PFFPNC Attorney Travis Payne designed language for a bill to establish an exemption for fire fighters performing company fire inspections. Prior to this, NC General Statutes prohibited the engagement of any work within the city’s jurisdiction (side jobs or employment) of state certified inspectors. PFFPNC Lobbyists introduced and successfully lobbied for an exemption for fire fighters whose primary job was fire suppression and rescue but performed some fire inspections. Of all the state certified inspectors (plumbing, electrical, building, etc.), line fire fighters are the only certified State inspector’s exempt from this law. The law does prohibit them from inspecting their own work. \With the State holding back funding from cities and counties, more cities are looking at the possibility of conducting company inspections to stretch their budgets. Without this law, many fire fighters, who need their side jobs to support their families, would have to give them up.
IAFF LICENSE PLATE – In 1999, the PFFPNC successfully introduced and passed legislation granting IAFF members in North Carolina a license plate with the IAFF logo on it. The law is written so that only IAFF members are allowed to legally display the plate on their vehicle.
INCREASES IN FIRE AND RESCUE PENSION – Twice in the 1990’s, PFFPNC lobbyists were appointed by the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives as a member of Pension Legislative Study Commissions for fire fighter retirement. The PFFPNC has consistently worked with other fire organizations to lobby for increases in pension payments of the North Carolina Fire and Rescue Pension Fund. As a result of the Study Commission’s recommendations in 1994, the Fire and Rescue Pension Fund monthly benefits have increased from $100 to $151 and with the profits in the System have increased to $174 per month.
LGERS INCREASES – The PFFPNC constantly supported increases in the Local Government Employees Retirement System Multiplying factor. Since 1987, the LGERS multiplying factor has increased from 1.52% times AFC to 1.85%.
LEGISLATION MONITORING – The PFFPNC Lobbying team continually monitors bills through every committee and session process that does not seem to adversely affect fire fighters and paramedics but could if one amendment changed just a few words in the current laws. Local legislation, which could affect individual cities or counties, is also monitored. Dozens of bills each session are monitored in this way.
RETIREMENT – DB OR DC PLAN – When the Session opened in 2011, there was a push to introduce legislation to convert the LGERS and state retirement plans from Defined Benefits Plans to Defined Contribution Plans such as the 401(k) or 457 Plans. The IAFF had analyzed these proposals and concluded they would hurt the retirement benefits of NC and other state fire fighters. The PFFPNC devised fact sheets explaining the fallacies of these proposals and distributed them to every legislator in Raleigh. We believe that educating our legislators on the potential harm from the proposals from Wall Street Brokers removed the threat to our retirement systems.
PROTECTING LGERS FROM IRS DISQUALIFICATION – In 2009 and 2011 there were attempts by the NC Sheriff’s Association Lobbyist to add 12 private employees to LGERS. In the 1990’s, the IRS had sent a letter to the NC Treasurer that if more private employees were added to the plan it would jeopardize the tax exemption of our public plan. These letters did not seem to deter the representatives from the Sherriff’s Association. The PFFPNC joined with other concerned organizations and was successful in stopping this attack on the exempt status of the System.
MDA Boot Drive – The PFFPNC passed legislation changing state highway laws to allow IAFF Locals to pass local ordinances to permit MDA Boot drives.
SURVIVOR BENEFITS – Passed an act to extend the survivor’s alternate benefit to survivors of firefighters and rescue squad workers with fifteen years of service and who are members of the local governmental employees’ retirement system and are killed in the line of duty.
Current Legislative Initiatives
The PFFPNC has had a constant presence in the North Carolina General Assembly since 1991. The preceding list of accomplishments did not just appear by themselves. PFFPNC lobbyists have made a point of being at the General Assembly anytime it was in session. The PFFPNC will continue to work hard to provide the representation expected by our members. While the list will continue to grow, the following is just a few of the issues PFFPNC lobbyist will work on: